Things to know about athletic turmoil at Illinois
The Associated Press
Nov. 09, 2015
The University of Illinois on Monday fired athletic director Mike Thomas and released the final versions of two reports on investigations into allegations of athlete mistreatment that clouded his final six months on the job. A look at those allegations and what was learned Monday in the reports from the Chicago law firm Franczek Radelet, hired by the university:
Former Illinois football player Simon Cvijanovic in May accused then-football coach Tim Beckman of pressuring him to play hurt and misleading him about the nature of an injury. That was followed by allegations of poor treatment by a handful of other players. Not long after, seven former women's basketball players accused coach Matt Bollant and then-assistant Mike Divilbiss of creating what they called a racially hostile environment in which some black players were treated more harshly than teammates. Some basketball players also claimed they were pressured to play with injuries and threatened with the loss of scholarships. The basketball players filed a still-pending lawsuit.
Beckman was fired in late August, just before the season started, with the release of a preliminary report on the football allegations. Thomas at the time said he was "shocked and angry" over findings that Beckman tried to influence medical decisions related to players.
Divilbiss left the basketball program, but Bollant remains head women's basketball coach after an earlier university-commissioned investigation into much of the alleged conduct found no wrongdoing.
Thomas leaves with a $2.5 million buyout, and interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson said he did nothing wrong, only that the university needed a new athletic director to move on from the months of allegations and upheaval.
The report released Monday on football-related allegations blames Beckman for virtually all of what the report found wrong. It said he tried to take care of players' health but often questioned and pressured players and medical staff when he wasn't certain about a player's injury. The report says he sometimes profanely questioned players' toughness in front of teammates, something he told investigators he used as a motivational tool. The report also says Beckman put "excessive" pressure on athletic trainers, leading some to quit. Beckman also was reprimanded by Thomas in 2012 for forcibly removing a player's helmet in practice.
Beckman has denied any wrongdoing and indicated he might sue the university, but did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
The latest report on women's basketball focused on medical treatment and the handling of player scholarships. It found that in "limited instances," coaches questioned whether an injured athlete could play, but that coaches never applied inappropriate pressure to players or medical staff. According to the report, the university honored all scholarship commitments.